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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Story of the Alphabet              55
ginal meaning of one root may begin to lose its sharp outline People
may then attach it to other roots without recalling its precise meaning
when it stands alone This process, which is the beginning of ana-
logical extension, goes on after the original meaning of an affix has
ceased to be dimly recognizable The affix may tack itself on to roots
merely because people expect by analogy that words of a particular
sort must end or begin in a particular way The large class of English
words such as durable and commendable, or frightful and soulful, are
in an early stage of the process The suffix -able has not yet lost its
individuality as a separate vocable,, though it has a less clear-cut mean-
ing than it had, when the habit of gluing it on to other words began
The suffix -ful is still recognizable as a contraction of full, which
preserves its literal value in handful
Such words as friendship or horsemanship illustrate a further stage
of the process They belong to a large class of Teutonic words such
as the German Wusemchaft, Swedish vetenskap, or Danish videnskab,
which have glued on them a suffix formed from a common Teutonic
root word meaning shape Thus the Swedish vetenskap, Danish
Vidcmkab, or German Wwenschaft, for which we now use the Latin
science, is really wit-diape In such words a suffix signifying shape or
form in a more or less metaphorical sense of the word has tacked
itself on to roots to confer a more abstract meaning The -head m
godhead and maidenhead has no more connexion with the anatomical
term than the -ship m lordship has to do with ocean transport Like
the -hood m widowhood, it is equivalent to the German -heit, Swedish
~hcty and Danish -hcd m a large class of abstract words for which the
English equivalents often have the Latin suffix -ity In the oldest
known Teutonic language, Gothic, haiduz (manner) was still a separate
The ultimate bricks of a vocable are represented by the vowel
symbols (m English script a, e, i, o, u) and the consonants which
correspond to the remaining letters of our Roman alphabet In com-
parison with other European languages, spoken English is astonishingly
rich m simple consonants In fact we have twenty-three simple con-
sonants m the spoken language for which only sixteen symbols are
available Three of them (Q, C, X) arc supernumerary and one Q)
stands for a compound sound English dialects have at least twelve
simple vowels. For these we have five symbols supplemented by w
after (as m saw\ or y before any one of them (as in yet} A complete
Anglo-American alphabet with a symbol for each simple vowel and